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Voices and Visions, Artist Statement

It’s been several weeks since I have blogged, and the reasons are many. Some new responsibilities as my mom’s caregiver, due to her shoulder replacement surgery in October, lots of hours at work, and a new custom order, among other things. Also, I keep trying to think of the perfect topic that will be entertaining to my audience and informative. And yet, when I do that I feel like I am not being my genuine self, and that leads to more inertia. So instead, I decided to share my artist statement for my new poetry illustration series, Voices, and Visions. So here it is.

Desert landscape with pregnant woman and plants
This is an oil painting which depicts the feeling of creative block. It is symbolized by the desert landscape and the pregnant woman, as well as the bean plant growth cycle.
Two figures in a barren landscape with a teddy bear and leaves.
This oil painting is an interpretation of Robert Frost’s poem, The Secret Sits. It is also inspired by a music video by the Cranberries, called Ordinary Day, in which the main character chases her younger self to try and resolve unfinished business.

Voices and Visions

 How does an idea for a painting get born? For me, it’s sometimes a memory being re-played, hearing a song lyric that resonates with me, reading a poem that lends itself to telling a story or visiting an inspiring art exhibit.  This series focuses on the connection between stories described in the written word, such as poetry, song lyrics, and quotes and the visual narratives that illustrate these works. The works may describe a feeling, a memory, a season, or some universal truth described in color, metaphor or symbols. Perhaps this series has been percolating in me for years, since 2005, in fact, when I graduated from McDaniel College with an art degree. My art mentor, Steve Pearson, who is now (Assistant Professor at McDaniel College), sparked an interest in me about how to make artwork that communicated personal truths and ideas.

To facilitate the creative process, he recommended that I keep a sketchbook and collect artwork that inspired me. This process would help me to identify the themes that mattered most to me and to write a content-based artist statement. Lastly, I created a series of work that described these themes through color, symbols, composition, etc.  It’s been several years since then and I have had a lot of experiences since then, read books, listened to music, attended concerts, had different jobs, and pursued different artistic subject media, such as the portrait, and more recently still life and landscape. But I keep coming back to artwork that has a meaning or a story to tell in my artwork, and especially to the portrait which was the first subject that ignited my interest in art. One significant event that sparked this recurrent theme, and they are: 1.) A drawing class that I took at Frederick Community College.

In January of 2015, I took a drawing course at Frederick Community College in Frederick, MD. One of the final assignments I tackled was to illustrate a poem using pastels.  A major challenge in this assignment was to find a poem that had some concrete images to illustrate and not a poem that was too esoteric and abstract. I chose Robert Frost’s poem, Ghost House, which has an abundance of concrete imagery. The first lines, “I dwell in a lonely house I know, that vanished nearly a summer ago and left no trace but the cellar walls…” (Frost) gripped me with a strong visual picture.  I immediately thought of a derelict house and tried to create a narrative about this haunted house.

Slowly different images popped into my head, a derelict house, a ghost bride, a tree, a path, and some crows. To facilitate this process, I collected artwork that inspired on Google image searches and checked out library books on vampires and fantasy creatures. My next step was to create a Photoshop file collage with images based on this poem. I completed the artwork by creating a drawing based off of the collage and finished with soft pastels. To create this current body of work, I have followed this same process of creating a notebook of images that inspired, and piecing them together in PhotoShop to create my own unique compositions. I also did searches on Pinterest for the artwork of interest and looked for examples of poetry illustrations to see how other artists have tackled this subject. And I read books on poetry or did Google searches to look for poems that lent themselves visual depiction. Some of the poetry that has inspired these works is verses written by Emily Dickinson, Maya Angelou, Robert Frost, and T.S. Elliot.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my artist statement! Have a wonderful week!

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What is Artist’s Block? Part 2

Last week I wrote about my struggles with artist’s block and I identified two specific types of artist’s block that were keeping me from producing art work, and they are 1.) a mental block and 2.) an emotional barrier. Both of these symptoms seem to culminate in negative self-talk that makes  me afraid to put pencil to paper. In spite of these things, I have been soldiering on. How about you? Did these types of artist’s block relate to you, or maybe you might be dealing with different types of artist’s block, such as work habits that don’t work for you, or personal issues, or a shortage of time, money, or resources, or feeling overscheduled? These types of artist’s block were discussed in the article: Seven Types of Artist’s Block and What to Do about Them by Mark McGuiness, which I mentioned in last week’s blog post. Here is the website if you want to read more about the article:  http://99u.com/articles/7088/7-types-of-creative-block-and-what-to-do-about-them.

This week my main difficulties with artist’s block have been feeling overwhelmed and pulled in too many directions, and my work habits and time management, which are keeping me from being able to consistently produce art. Now that I have made the transition from a hobby artist to a professional artist, there are much more demands on my time than there was when I was just painting for fun. Now there are a myriad of tasks that I need to complete to keep my art business organized (such as taking inventory of my works, so that I know what is available and what has been sold), marketing my art work and sharing my art show events with others via Facebook, personal emails or Instagram, and keeping my web site updated with blog posts to keep people coming back to the site, just to name a few. The ante has really been upped this past month because I have signed up for more art events, which is a good thing because it opens up the door for more sales and personal connections with clients and patrons, but it also means that my administrative tasks increase exponentially. To cope with the added stress, I have been trying to incorporate self-care into my schedule again, whether it’s taking the time to journal, go for a walk, going to my favorite coffee shop, coloring in my coloring books, or just taking a long drive to get away from it all. A little anxiety is a good thing because it motivates me to work, but too much anxiety can make me feel paralyzed and unable to work.

The second aspect of my artist block is dealing with my time management skills and avoiding distractions which can keep me away from making art. Distractions can come in many forms, whether it’s social media, email checking, etc. And I might justify this by saying that it is for my business, and it might well be, say a Facebook post to advertise my upcoming art show at Art Pops! Everedy Square. However, I am learning I need to limit my time on the computer, both for administrative tasks such as data entry for inventory of my art work, or conducting marketing campaigns on Facebook or Instagram.  I also am a person who lacks structure and discipline, so I have to create an outside structure for myself by creating deadlines for myself, writing to-do lists, writing due dates on the calendar and setting my kitchen timer for what I like to call Pomodoro.

These Pomodoro’s are 25-minute increments in which I focus on only one task, whether it’s working on a drawing to post for Instagram for my 100 faces in 100 days drawing challenge or updating my Art of Schmidt web site. Sometimes to maintain my focus, I also need to turn off my phone and not answer emails. Afterward, I take 5-minute breaks to re-group. To learn more about the Pomodoro technique, visit the following web site: https://www.focusboosterapp.com/the-pomodoro-technique.    If I don’t apply discipline and self-control to my routine, I get really behind on my projects, especially since there is no one who will keep me accountable for these tasks but myself.  The insecurity and negative chatter I mentioned in my post last week can really make me want to distract and procrastinate on getting into the studio. I am trying to be more gentle with myself and allow the art to unfold as it will, seeing it as part of a process of learning for me, and not an ultimate destination.